Texans’ pass rush and coverage are intertwined with regards to defensive needs

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Mark Lane
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The Houston Texans pass rush and coverage were worthy of writing home about — only if you wanted to tell Ma and Pa about what a defense on a 4-12 team looks like.

Houston’s pass rush generated 34 sacks, the 18th-most in the NFL, and 80 quarterback hits, tied with the Green Bay Packers for the 11th-fewest.

The Texans’ pass defense allowed an opposing passer rating of 109.6, the second-highest in the NFL. Opponents were able to complete 8.0 yards per attempt, tied with the Miami Dolphins for the third-highest in the league.

The most glaring statistic that told the tale of how frustrating it was for the Texans’ defense was takeaways. Houston gathered just nine such extra possessions, the absolute fewest in the NFL in 2020.

For new general manager Nick Caserio, the approach isn’t to fix specifically one phase of the defense; it takes a comprehensive approach.

“It’s all combined,” Caserio told reporters on a Zoom call on April 16. “It all works together. Defense is about team defense. It’s not about one particular player, about one particular position. It all works in conjunction with one another, so the better front you have, then it’s going to help the coverage. The better coverage is going to help the front, right? Again, it’s not about, like, is one more important than the other? It’s about team defense.”

The Texans still have good leaders on the field in safety Justin Reid and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Houston has also added talent to kickstart new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 scheme with the additions of defensive end Shaq Lawson and linebackers Christian Kirksey and Jordan Jenkins.

“There’s 11 players on the field and they have to work in conjunction and in unison with one another,” said Caserio. “That’s the best way to play defense is to have good team defense. You’ve got to be able to do certain things. There are certain areas that hopefully we can improve relative to where we were last year as a team with the Houston Texans, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

The Texans may not be able to fix the defense quickly through the draft. The Texans do not make their first selection until No. 67 overall in Round 3 of April’s draft.